ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. And if you`ve been watching our special coverage, I want to tell you at the start of our broadcast of THE BEAT tonight, we will continue to follow this heartbreaking story of the fire in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and we`ll bring you updates as warranted.
Turning now tonight to Washington, trump Attorney General Bill Barr has for the first time named a day he will release his redacted Mueller report. That day is Thursday. And we`re told that in an announcement today.
And it comes after Barr testified he was on pace to release the Mueller report this week. And today, the Justice Department says they have this planned. Now, it is a plan so that they could move again.
But the timing is notable because Barr is picking when to release his redacted version of this obviously very anticipated report. Now, it could be a Monday to start the week. It could be a Friday or the weekend, like some of his memorable letters.
It could be Good Friday. That hits this week. And I`m here to tell you tonight, Barr is pretty close because he`s told the world for the first time today that of all the days that could begin the multi-day process of reading and reacting to this redacted report, the attorney general has picked the eve of Good Friday and Passover, which could be a sign that Barr wants to use this process to try to play down the report heading into a Friday holiday weekend rather than play it up.
And that`s interesting because it matches these new reports that Trump`s team is concerned about what`s in this report, with plans to uncork a potentially aggressive response, including a rebuttal from Rudy Giuliani in a so-called counter-report and they`re already leaking that they have 140 pages of counter-report but it could be whittled down to 50 by Thursday with prepared arguments rebutting any evidence on potential obstruction of justice.
The larger signs here are becoming clear. Donald Trump`s allies are fixated on getting ahead of this actual Mueller report from Barr`s letter that went beyond the findings in the Mueller report to Trump claiming a report that he hasn`t read yet, it completely exonerates him.
Now, this tack is obviously suspicious, because if the report really exonerated Donald Trump fully, he wouldn`t need a counter-report from their perspective and you wouldn`t need a P.R. strategy of these letters and excerpts or a holiday news dump that might play down the report. If the report were a slam-dunk, you would expect they`d want the thing out there for days of coverage and time for victory laps including on television, especially with this administration.
Now there is nothing new about Trump and Giuliani contradicting themselves while attacking the Russia probe, going from honorable to angry Democrats and back to honorable. What is new in today`s announcement, why this is our top story from DOJ, here are the signs that the Barr Justice Department appears in a closer lockstep with Trump`s defense strategy than, say, Rosenstein and Mueller did.
And we`re hearing that from legal experts, even as many have previously credit Mr. Barr as a respected and serious legal figure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETE WILLIAMS, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: He is a serious adult who would run the Justice Department and be respected.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barr is coming in with a reputation as relatively speaking a pretty independent force in the Justice Department and somebody who wants to maintain that integrity and respect.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve always thought him to be a principled man, a man of integrity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Barr brought solid legal experience to the Justice Department. If you watch our coverage, you`ve heard me reference and report that, you`ve heard me note his esteem among the Conservative legal establishment in Washington.
The scrutiny on Barr right now isn`t as much about as what he has done in the past, it`s about how he is leading the Justice Department in this unusual Trump administration, from his rushed weekend announcements about what we now know was a 400-page report he downed and then released conclusions on by Sunday night.
What we`re dealing with now are his selective quotes from that report. What we`re dealing with now are his statements objecting to criticism of his depictions of the report. Don`t call it a summary, as he memorably said in his LL Cool J moment, or his provocative reference to spying at a recent hearing.
Now any one of those moves -- I say this seriously because it is important to be fair -- any one of those moves in isolation you might dismiss, just like you might dismiss this apparently obviously curious announcement that he`s going to drop the report on the eve of major holidays.
Alone you might dismiss that. You might give it the benefit of the doubt. Take it all together, though, and the scrutiny intensifies, because burying controversial moves around the holidays is a go-to Washington move because it works.
It works even if you get called out for it, because while you`re getting called out for it, many people are understandably busy with the holiday so, they hear less about you getting called out for it. That was the case when President Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio on a Friday night, heading into a hurricane if you remember. And that was the case when President Bush pardoned six people for Iran-Contra on Christmas Eve in `92. People knew what the move was but that was the timing because that stuff does work.
Now, that was ultimately President Bush`s call, a call that he was advised on by then-Attorney General Bill Barr. Now, timing is something that Mr. Barr still lawfully controls. As for how much he redacts, that may not be up to him alone.
There is a bipartisan push coming out here, news breaking today, that the leaders of the House Intel Committee, Adam Schiff and Devin Nunes from both parties who sparred over the Russia probe in the past are together demanding Barr provide all of Mueller`s materials and a briefing from Mueller and his team. That is interesting.
So what is Mueller up to? While we know Barr has been name-checking him and saying he and his team are involved in redactions, we haven`t as is typical heard much from Mueller himself, but we can report that Bob Mueller was heading into his office again this morning, a sign that he is either working or meeting with people who are doing something with the DOJ during this period when his probe is, of course, officially ended.
I want to bring in a panel aligned here in New York. And I`m excited to say I have Maya Wiley, former counsel to Mayor of New York City and a former civil prosecutor at SDNY. John Flannery, also a former federal prosecutor. And Sam Nunberg, a Trump campaign adviser who was interviewed by Mueller`s team and faced the grand jury, a unique experience compared to most people. Thanks to all of you for being here.
John, when you look at this timing, we now learn that the report would come Thursday, in addition to what else we know. Does this strike you as on the level or concerning?
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Oh, it`s concerning. It fits a pattern that`s been transparent, unlike what I expect will be the Mueller report. I think their theory is that old Zen question, if a tree falls in the forest and there`s no one there to hear it, did it make a sound?
In this case, that means does anybody hear it who can act on it when Congress is not in session and it`s Easter weekend? And even the talking heads will probably be challenged on Sunday as to how much they talk about this.
MELBER: And how many trees have to die to print how many Mueller reports?
FLANNERY: Well, there are a lot of trees that have to be printed about these people. We have a few indictments.
MELBER: But these trees you think are giving their lives up for a cause of information and hopefully truth?
FLANNERY: For obstruction. We have a slight disagreement there in characterization but yes, I think --
MELBER: I don`t go as far as you But your point being, what will happen. Will people be able to understand and learn about this?
FLANNERY: Transparent is a word in English that is not subject to distortion. And we are not going to be transparent. We are going to have, I don`t know, a stained glass window which is opaque in part, probably because of the grand jury material.
Especially, because he never went to a judge and said can we have this because it`s in the public service and the public interest to know what really happened here, and we`re so confident that our president hasn`t done anything wrong, let it all be out there.
MELBER: When you worked as a prosecutor, if you had an important announcement that you wanted to garner attention or that you just wanted to proceed in the normal way for as you put it, transparency.
MELBER: Would you find the eve of Good Friday, Passover the right time to do that?
FLANNERY: No. Because you have a public function when you indict someone that is you`re trying to discourage and deter others from committing the same crime. That`s why around this time of the year, we have tax indictments, to teach the public that this is something you`ve got to be careful about doing.
And when we wanted to say something to the public, we said to it the court. We put it in a pleading. We put it in a conspiracy. We put it in a means clause.
There are reports that you can have the grand jury make. None of those things have happened here. And the most outrageous thing I think is we have to ask why are the targets not invited to the grand jury in question, even when they were subjects?
And one way to kill an investigation is not to do it right, not to talk to all the people that are necessary.
MELBER: Right. And you`re worried about the process there.
MELBER: I`m interested. In the news today, I`m very interested, Sam, we`re learning about how the Trump Justice Department is going to deal with what according to Giuliani in a counter-report apparently requires something to counter.
And so I wonder heading into Passover if you`re familiar with the tradition of hiding the Afikoman. Are you?
SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: Yes, very familiar.
MELBER: And so the question sort of becomes heading into Passover, is the Mueller report or sections of it being treated like some Afikoman that the Justice Department may be hiding and is that the right thing, should this report be hidden?
NUNBERG: I love the analogy. You know, it`s going to sound counterintuitive, but this is actually going to backfire. I`ve worked in many political campaigns or public advocacy campaigns, and we always would release, including when I worked for Donald Trump, we would release news during holiday weekends because you would own it that weekend.
MELBER: You think this `90s move, a Christmas Eve party, a holiday, you think that move -- you think Barr, that may actually backfire if that`s the goal in this?
NUNBERG: If that was their intention, it will backfire. It just doesn`t work anymore, especially with the way the news cycle works. It certainly would work in 1992 when he did those pardons but it`s not going to work now.
MELBER: And given that you use --
NUNBERG: There is too much public interest now.
MELBER: And given that you used to work with Donald Trump directly, you used to work with him on his tweets and his strategy, when he says this report exonerates me fully, and let`s also hide the report, does that hurt him?
NUNBERG: It will and it won`t, because politically, what you need to look at is everybody can talk about his stable approval rating, you can talk about his base, you can talk about his opposition that doesn`t move.
But Ari, what we`ve seen is there`s 20 percent of independence that have switched. And they`ve gone whether Mueller`s numbers have gone down.
And what I really think is how is this going to transform into -- when they look at these hearing as opposed to an investigation which typically over 50 percent of Americans approved of, the special counsel.
MELBER: Maya, Speaker Pelosi has been out hitting harder against Barr than most Democrats, really. Here she was on a new interview in "60 Minutes" on whether there is a whitewashing. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESLEY STAHL, HOST, 60 MINUTES: Do you think that the attorney general is covering anything up?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I have no idea. I have no idea. He may be whitewashing, but I don`t know if he is covering anything up. Having that discussion, all we need to do is see the Mueller report.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: As you look towards what may be Thursday, what is important here? Because obviously there was a desire by the Trump folks to pretend the letter represents the report. Now, there is going to be a desire to say whatever comes out is the whole story. We don`t know until we see how much redacting has been done.
WILEY: And how many colors, and which shade of report. I think what Nancy Pelosi is saying is important in the history of William Barr because we both have the fact that he testified at his confirmation hearing and said I think it`s in the best interests of the American public that as much of this thing gets made public as possible.
As John reflects, he had opportunities to do that, he did not take, then he releases a summary, which really is I think by the way it was written a whitewashing, meaning if we hear that there were summaries he could have made available, that he did not much more quickly, that suggests that he was trying to game the system.
And then finally, finally, he says to Congress when he`s at his budget hearing, yes, I was surprised I didn`t get summaries in some form from the Mueller team that I could release, except then we hear that he did. So all of the information starts to make it look like William Barr`s operating as a political operative of the president rather than in the best interests of the country.
MELBER: Well, and I think that goes back to two things. One, the scrutiny on whether he is operating in that way to defend the president. But two, the conjoined implication, which is if hiding it helps the president, that also suggests that what`s in there is worse than what he and the president have said.
WILEY: Yes, absolutely. And, you know, one of the things that came up, and I think it was Ryan Goodman who reported on this in "Just Security" is that Barr actually has actually done this in the past. Which is when it came time to change an opinion that had been long standing in the office of legal counsel at the Department of Justice, saying you can`t go and kidnap someone from a foreign country.
He actually hid that report from Congress. He refused to make it public. Congress had to subpoena it. Went through a long court process to get the opinion that normally would have been turned over to Congress as a matter of course. So I think there is reason and there is history to be concerned.
MELBER: And this is where I`m interested also in your experience advising and being a counsel to a politician, which is different. You have to worry about the worst faith interpretations, right? I`m sure you advised Mayor De Blasio, who I said on this broadcast many people like him as a progressive, and many people in New York have beef with him. Is that a fair assessment?
MELBER: There`s some beef.
WILEY: There is some beef.
MELBER: So I`m sure --
FLANNERY: You won`t get that from the White House.
MELBER: I`m sure when you advise --
WILEY: And the public record.
MELBER: When you advised him, there may be times when you said I know you`re not doing something to bury something, sir. But let`s pick a different day to even avoid the misperception that we`re doing that. Wouldn`t there be anyone at Justice Department who says well, you can pick any day, any time, it`s been 22 months? You said it might be Monday or Tuesday. You said under the hearing last week it would be by early this week.
Let`s steer clear of the eve of major holidays simply for perception and yet that`s not what we`re seeing. What we`re seeing, according to legal experts we`re hearing from is what could be a trial balloon to see what they can get away with this, this week.
WILEY: I obviously can`t comment on any advice I gave Mayor de Blasio as his counsel. What I will say is it suggests a common conversation, and we heard this from McGahn, right, who apparently made statements about being yelled at constantly, is that you have lawyers often saying, look, the best thing for you, there is nothing here that hurts you so just put it out. Just get it out, and let`s just talk about it. There is stuff people are going to say.
Then the communications team says "Hmm, we`re going to hide it. We`re going to hide it because we don`t want to talk about it." And then you have this back and forth that can happen.
And so the question here is what conversation is William Barr having with the White House communications team about how they`re handling this. That would be an interesting question.
FLANNERY: Well, I think the direction, though, comes from the White House. In a normal communication team, it may be a collaborative effort.
But in this case, out of the blue, "OK, let them have everything. No, I`ve changed my mind. No, they can`t have anything. You better stomp on these things so it doesn`t come out. Don`t go to the court. Don`t get anything released." And he is -- he would be an impossible politician to advise because he doesn`t listen.
NUNBERG: I also think he is in an impossible situation, though, having to deal with the Trump White House. And this is somebody who has said he believes in the unitary executive.
If you look at the memo he wrote, he believes that officials, there is no independence in the executive branch. And working for that White House, I`m almost -- I would I give him a compliment for being able to get this out in that time frame, frankly, because I always assumed that we would have a longer delay getting this report out. In light of the Trump White House, in light of Emmet Flood being hired, in light of Donald Trump.
MELBER: But, again, when you say that you`re a former Trump adviser and you have spoken independently as well, but you`re a former Trump adviser saying you`d want to delay or hide it because of something bad in there.
I mean it can`t be both things. Either the argument is hey, this was mostly about tweets and his unusual style, but at the end of the day, there was no conspiracy indictment so there is really no underlying crime. Let`s get through it and be done with it. That`s one argument.
And a good lawyer can make that argument. Or it`s, oh my God, when you read this whole report, you`re going to have things that call into question the president`s leadership of the United States, his oversight law enforcement, his judgment, and frankly, according to Sam, assessments of whether that impacts his re-election.
NUNBERG: Which is why the president has been complaining about it via Twitter. He is saying that whatever is released, it`s never going to be good enough for the Democrats.
FLANNERY: Or more than that -- I`m sorry, there will be a trail of crumbs that come from this, even if pages are blacked out, just like we`ve done with other documents. And we have a whole nation of people of --
MELBER: Blacked out or redded out or yellowed out.
FLANNERY: Oranged out or whatever. Yes. And I think that is another fear he has. He lives with fear.
This is a bully who is terrified of everybody else. And the trouble is nobody stands up to him. And I think that if we stop giving him a break and being surprised each time when he does something, like giving him the benefit of the doubt when by now there can be no doubt, not about Barr, not about him, not about any of his henchmen. I can modify that a little bit but I think that`s pretty straight on.
WILEY: You opened with LL Cool J. And I just want to say, I want an around the way DOJ, OK? I want the DOJ that is paying attention to the country and that understands how much of this report is going to be redacted.
MELBER: I mean to be fair, I think I opened with exodus.
WILEY: Well, OK. I got hung up on LL Cool J. But here is the point about that around the way DOJ. If one of the areas of redaction we see heavily redacted is counterintelligence material, which I think we may see that. National security becomes a dominant color.
We have five countries that alerted us to the fact that Trump aides had been heavily in contact with Russia and we`re concerned. We have the issue of whatever ongoing counter-intelligent investigations may be going on which we will not find out about, the reason we need to know as much as we possibly can is there is a fundamental question that the evidence that is public tells us, which is whether or not we have a president who is operating in the best interests of the country.
MELBER: Right. And we do know from what little Barr has released is that there were requests for information, 11 requests for foreign government information, which raises a lot of questions about, again, the leads that were pursued in good faith or with evidence of those questions.
Sam, I think by Friday, the question will be why is this night different from all other nights.
NUNBERG: I`ll be asking that.
MELBER: You`ll be asking that? Are you the youngest person at your Seder?
NUNBERG: Actually, no, not this year.
MELBER: Someone will be asking that. And the answer always is a family explanation. But one of the answers may be because potentially, they just dropped the Mueller report. We`ll find out.
FLANNERY: We`ll be reading it at Passover, just like the angel.
WILEY: Maybe some bitter herbs.
NUNBERG: We can have the pocket eye in the Mueller report, right?
MELBER: Well, that`s the -- I think -- and I hate to do this. I hate to do this. It makes me uncomfortable.
I think Maya`s question is whether the report for Trump will be something like a Hillel sandwich, some maror, some bitter herbs, and some sweetness.
FLANNERY: No, you didn`t hate to do it.
MELBER: I was very happy to do it. I want to thank a very special panel in the set of New York, Maya Wiley, John Flannery, and Sam Nunberg, much to discuss. And we`ll be calling on all of you on your expertise as we get the report.
We have a lot more in the show, including Neal Katyal and the Bill Barr precedent and how these investigations may explain why past is recurring.
Also, later, Bernie Sanders has released 10 years of tax returns tonight. A lot of people talking about that and the fundraising.
And Speaker Pelosi was pressed, very interesting, in what she said about AOC and why she is drawing the line that Democrats are Democrats, and not socialists. A lot of stuff in our rundown on the rest of the show.
Stay with us. I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: The Barr/DOJ`s announcement today, that they plan to release a redacted Mueller report this Thursday on the eve of Good Friday and Passover is raising questions as I`ve just mentioned about whether they`re trying to potentially bury this. A Friday news dump or a holiday news dump.
Now, when you think about the last Justice Department under Barr, he was attorney general under George H.W. Bush, and the president issued six pardons in the Iran-Contra case when? On Christmas Eve.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Bush granted a Christmas Eve pardon to former Defense Chief Caspar Weinberger and five other Reagan administration officials.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bush called it an act of healing. The Iran-Contra prosecutor called it the completion of a cover-up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Plus "The New York Times" reported at the time, it was accused as a cover-up, and the president was consulting on those very Christmas Eve pardons with Attorney General Bill Barr.
I want to bring in former U.S. Solicitor General and MSNBC Analyst Neal Katyal. Thanks for joining me tonight, Neal.
NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Thank you.
MELBER: I want to get to several things but starting with this big news. Your view of both the announcement of Thursday as a time to get the redacted report, whether that raises any questions, and how you view that more broadly with Mr. Barr`s approach thus far.
KATYAL: Yes. I mean color me skeptical. I think that there is reasons to doubt Barr`s up and upness on this. So it`s not just that he wrote a 19- page memo last summer saying that Trump basically couldn`t obstruct justice on a really flimsy legal theory. It`s not just that he cleared the president on obstruction of Justice in 48 hours when it took Mueller two years and he didn`t make that conclusion and said it does not exonerate.
It`s also things like his testimony last week where Barr said like that there may have been "unlawful spying going on". And this weekend, that led the Trump campaign to even do ads around that and saying "Oh, this effectively deep state is engaged in unlawful spying."
You know, there is the perception and hopefully not the reality that the attorney general is really Trump`s attorney general and not the attorney general of the American people.
MELBER: Right. And as you say, it`s a matter of looking at this holistically. And the testimony he gave, we didn`t give it even a lot of time on the show because the underlying claims were so weak as to not in themselves be factually newsworthy. Although one can decide whether or not criticizing the sort of congressional hearing by tweet storm approach is something worth criticizing.
As you say, I think that goes into the analysis. I also want to ask you about the Trump side defense, which would seem to be aided by Mueller not indicting on a conspiracy.
And so for your analysis, a fellow former prosecutor like yourself, a former DOJ official, Renato Mariotti puts it like this. What if Trump truly believed that the investigation was meritless and a waste of government resources? Then as they greet the Mueller report this week, could they argue there`s the evidence that Trump was aware of facts central to the collusion investigation and thus he had a good reason not to believe a crime had been committed?
The idea that the one thing Mueller and Trump may agree on is no chargeable election conspiracy, and that that saves otherwise potentially unlawful acts by the president. Your response to that argument.
KATYAL: Yes, a couple of things. One is it`s just bizarre to think that we even are talking about a legal defense. Remember, this is the president who said the Mueller report totally exonerates him, and now he is preparing a 50-page rebuttal. I guess it`s down from 140 pages.
But that isn`t the way an innocent person I think would behave, particularly in light of a report that supposedly clears him. Now, Mr. Mariotti`s argument is effectively that the Trump lawyers in the Trump White House basically don`t -- they discount what the president says. And he says one thing and says things that are outrageous, but doesn`t act on them.
But here is the case for obstruction of justice has never been about the president`s intentions. It`s been about his actions. It`s been about firing Jim Comey. And when asked about it on NBC News, he said the reason why was because of the Russia thing.
So I don`t think actually Renato`s explanation is likely to carry the day. We`ll see what the report says. Obviously, we don`t know what it says.
Trump evidently does, because Barr I think it was revealed over the weekend did give him something of a heads up about the report. But we don`t know yet.
MELBER: Legally, we have some breaking news. Let me turn to that.
Breaking news here at MSNBC. "The New York Times" reporting that House Democrats have now subpoenaed Deutsche Bank and other lenders for Russia- related materials on Donald Trump`s finances. Reading from "The Times`" story, Congressional investigators issuing new subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and "numerous other banks" seeking information about Trump`s finances and "the lender`s business dealings with Russians."
This is sourced to multiple people dealing with the congressional probe. An interesting story, one we`ve been following, many people have been following for years.
Neal Katyal who served in the Justice Department did not know this story was breaking any more than the rest of us, but I do believe with what little I`ve told you, you can at least speak broadly to what it means when Congress takes the step of subpoenaing and what one might be looking for on these records, which of course have also been an issue in the Mueller probe that you`ve been analyzing for us for some time.
KATYAL: Yes, I think they`re looking for two things. One is evidence of any potential crimes that were committed not just by Trump but by the organization, by people around him. And second broader than that, governance issues and whether judgment was a good judgment was exercised and ordinarily there`d be some protection and not all these documents would had need to be turned over.
But it was the House Republicans when they were in charge just a few months ago that blew past every tradition and restriction going so far as say seek subpoenas for classified information about FISA, about search warrants, very highly classified information. So it`s going to be very, very hard now for them to turn around and be like oh we can share these documents or see these documents.
MELBER: And that`s the other piece Neal, I mean, we talk a lot about tradition and there are many good reasons that lawyers who of course are also employed by these House investigators will give time and try to use what is sometimes called less restrictive means to pursue information before they go to subpoenas.
What do you make of here we are in April so roughly you know, just three- four months into this new Congress with a president who has so blatantly said he will defy these requests, he will fight them at every turn, he won`t cooperate. How does that fit into what we`re seeing that looks like a much higher an earlier subpoena rate of sort of going to the mat this early in this young Congress` tenure?
KATYAL: Well, I`ve been act quite impressed with Chairman Nadler because he was under pressure to subpoena starting on you know January 5th or whatever day he was sworn in some months ago, and I think he`s gone carefully and deliberately and tried to get information through other means.
So the fact that he`s going in doing this suggests to me he thinks well, not that there`s probable cause that a crime has been committed, but that there`s some probable cause to believe there`s a need for the investigation for these materials and he hasn`t been able to get them through any other mechanism.
MELBER: And let me do one more question on this and then I do want to get you in some of the Supreme Court stuff that I also want to ask you about tonight. Reading from The Times article, it explains their jointly investigating Deutsche Bank`s relationship with Trump and it mentions that he`s quote, the only -- that`s the only mainstream bank consistently willing to do business with Trump given his bankruptcies.
The bank let him well over $2 billion. Trump had more than $300 million in outstanding loans from Deutsche Bank and the time he took office. And the spokesman for the bank says we`re going to provide appropriate information to authorized investigations, a kind of a boilerplate statement, Neal, and yet one that is probably not great news to Trump.
We know this week he`s also been urging his independent accounting companies to try to hold back his tax returns which are also being pursued through multiple doors from Congressional Democrats. And so I wonder here what you think is important from the oversight perspective that might be different from Mueller.
For example, if Mueller looks at all those financial records and doesn`t see basically crimes in the United States, my understanding is other than what else he tells people, he sort of moves on. Whereas with congressional investigators, if they found that there was, for example, a lawful, a private auction of the sitting President`s debt say there was debt that he was hold -- that Deutsche Bank or others were holding and they sold it say to his country`s sovereign bank or some other entity, that might be very much in Congress`s interest to deal with his oversight even if it`s not technically potentially a U.S. crime.
KATYAL: Right. So the special counsel regulations gave Mueller only a very limited mandate to look at Russia and things like obstruction of justice of the Russia investigation. And so Ari, you`re absolutely right. To the extent that other crimes unrelated to that, we obviously don`t know where there are any been committed or not but that`s why the investigation is seeking these documents to try and figure that out.
But whatever we learn on Thursday from Barr and Mueller, no matter how redacted is or how open it will be, it`s only about that one lane Russia and obstruction, nothing larger than that.
MELBER: Well, it`s fascinating to get your views of Barr and this breaking news. I`m not going to press you for Passover or Good Friday legal analogies partly because we don`t have time. I want to get you on something I know you`re preparing for which is one of the reasons you`re such an interesting legal analyst for us, your extensive experience arguing before the Supreme Court including on behalf of the Obama administration. I know you`re headed back there to do that again.
And we have a little cameo for you from -- we can`t show you inside the courtroom because they don`t allow cameras, everybody knows that, but you did simulate it once in a house of cards cameo. Let`s take a look at that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATYAL: If you do not say that this is wrong, that this is unconstitutional, there is nothing to prevent the sort of senseless tragedy from happening again. We ask for nothing more than reform and oversight. Your ruling is a crucial first step. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Katyal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: For most of us who don`t go inside those hallowed halls, we`re curious how much does that look like your experience. And as part of our opening arguments the series here that we`re happy to have you for, walk us through this case and what you`re doing, what it`s like to prep for what you`re about to do which is going back before the High Court?
KATYAL: Well, Ari, why is this night different than any other night? Because we`re talking about the Supreme Court which is not something that we talk about on nightly news, but it is our third branch of government, it`s crucial to the rule of law and yes, in 36 hours I`ll be arguing my 39th case before there. And I wish actually that all Americans could see the Supreme Court in action and not be reduced to a Netflix fictional episode because it really is the one branch of our government that works.
So an oral argument at the Supreme Court is now only a half hour per side. It used to be nine days back at the founding the days when Daniel Webster argue that went on and on, but now it`s a half hour compressed. Like my Indian wedding was you know, from three days, the traditional Hindu wedding, it was compressed to 28 minutes. Same thing for Supreme Court arguments today very, very compressed.
I get about 70 questions, 7-0 in any oral argument. And so what I`m doing now is really just preparing for it with moot courts trying to prepare for rapid-fire questions. And you know, there`s a lot of public talk about the justices but this is really the one branch of government that works. They bring their A-game every day and it`s a pretty disconcerting sometimes for an advocate to face all those questions.
MELBER: Yes. It`s fascinating when you put it that way in terms of how it works. I mean, it`s the arm of government that doesn`t really typically do press releases or tweets or press conferences. As you say, it`s through those oral arguments that we can hear the audio, we can read the transcript, and through the force of law of the opinions. And you`ve been a front-row participant in that.
You said why is this night different? As we all know, there are four types of children that we answer that question to with different types of answers. I think it`s fair to say you -- the answer for you would be this -- the intelligent son or daughter, the smart child out of the four. But you know, it`s an open -- it`s an known Passover a question. If viewers have input, you can tweet us at @TheBeatwithAri of which child do you think Neal Katyal would be. And sir --
KATYAL: Oh no.
MELBER: Well, there`s only four and none of them are terrible. My vote is the smart one. Thank you, Neal, for being here. And by the way, if you like what we`re doing with Neal, go to MSNBC.com/openingarguments and you can see all of these segments and share them. We have a lot more in the show including politics.
Bernie Sanders just dropped his tax returns. 2016 numbers are in on financing for many people and there is this effort to try to kick Trump off the ballot. How is that playing? All of it when we`re back in 30.
MELBER: In political news, breaking tonight in our hour, Senator and of course presidential candidate Bernie Sanders have just released ten years of his tax returns. This is notable because he actually didn`t do that during the primaries in 2016. The returns show Sanders making over a million dollars in 2016 and 2017. This was after the publication of his book Our Revolution.
The returns also revealed his income dropped in 2018 although still over half a million dollars. All this news coming as Sanders is also releasing his campaign fundraising for the first quarter. This is the deadline today for those numbers. $20 dollars between January and March, a big hall leading the pack on the Democratic side.
Senator Kamala Harris also revealing her Hall a very significant $13 million. Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised $7 million. That`s part of the reason that his campaign is seen as having more grassroots support and it doesn`t count this $1 million that he raised within four hours yesterday after formalizing his presidential bid announcement. All of this there is coming with plenty of media buzz. You`re looking at the cover of New York Magazine, How About Pete.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle -- of the aisle, Donald Trump`s campaign says it`s raised a whopping $30 million in the first quarter. All of those new numbers out tonight. I`m joined by longtime Washington reporter Eleanor Clift with The Daily Beast and Katon Dawson n a former chair of the South Carolina Republican Party with a lot of political news. Good evening to you both.
ELEANOR CLIFT, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening.
KATON DAWSON, FORMER CHAIRMAN, SOUTH CAROLINA REPUBLICAN PARTY: Good evening.
MELBER: Eleanor, walk us through what these numbers mean in your view and specifically Mr. Sanders whose tax returns are being seen effectively for the -- for the first time in his -- in his role as a recent presidential candidate.
CLIFT: Yes. And we haven`t examined them enough to understand why he wasn`t eager to release them in 2016. He is rich and he spent a lot of his campaign rhetoric railing against millionaires and billionaires. I think somebody is suggesting he`s going to have to change it to railing against billionaires and zillionaires to keep his brand.
But he`s made his money legitimately so I don`t really see an issue there. But his campaign fundraising totals definitely put him at the front of the pack and show that he has sustainability in this campaign because a lot of these -- the money he`s gotten, his small donations, these people will keep giving.
He has a long list from 2016, he has a lot of devoted supporters. So I think any Democrats who were thinking well, he can`t -- he can`t prevail, once again he`s going to be a formidable force as we go forward.
CLIFT: The other candidate especially --
MELBER: I was going to -- let me get --
CLIFT: -- especially Mayor Pete is new and different and quite interesting.
MELBER: Let me get -- I`m going to get Katon and then I`ll come back to you. Katon?
DAWSON: Yes sir. Well, when you look at the money that Bernie`s made himself in the message early on, that will come and go. $20 million is a substantial sum but I will explain too it takes about $40 million dollars to start and put the gas in a presidential campaign to get ballot access and everything it takes to do that.
So Pete`s got about $8 million raised, it takes -- the fundraisers get about 35 percent of that. But right now, the big news there is Donald Trump has already spent $83 million in doing -- million dollars doing town halls and events and that has $30 million in the bank with the Republican National Committee`s bank account.
So a sitting president certainly has a lot of advantages and Donald Trump`s taking advantages of that right now.
MELBER: Eleanor, on Mayor Pete, whatever this boomlet may be, the money side is a rough indicator that the boom that includes some Democratic base voters who are giving it to him in a way that is more than many other I would say better-known candidates at this point.
CLIFT: Yes. And if you watched his announcement speech on Sunday, if he wrote that speech or whoever wrote that speech, he delivered it beautifully. It was well-crafted. It had lines that were reminiscent of Jack Kennedy, Barack Obama. I think Democrats were kind of swooning over the over -- the possibility of this -- of this young man.
But granted, I don`t know that everybody is looking at him and sees an instant president. But this is someone who`s probably going to be part of our political future for some time to come. Picking up on the other point about President Trump, he has set a goal of $1 billion for his campaign and he`s raised far more than all the Democrats together.
And remembering Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008, Barack Obama raised almost $26 million in the first quarter. So the numbers this time around they`re interesting but they`re not blockbuster really.
MELBER: As you were speaking, we`re looking at live pictures of Mayor Pete Buttigieg in Brooklyn where he`s speaking at a fundraiser and this is someone that Brooklyn 6:43 p.m. on the East Coast, this is someone that some grassroots donors, some grassroots Democrats are interested in as well as Kamala Harris who had even more impressive numbers and of course Senator Sanders who is to some degree known for his grassroots fundraising.
Katon, I wonder what you think the Republican Party learned in the wide, wide field last cycle because that is something that is shaping up here where money matters but is not necessarily determinative and where it can be a real challenge on that debate stage when it`s filled with so many people.
DAWSON: I can tell you what we learned. We learned how to be miserable. We had 16 candidates or at Donald Trump that was self-funding himself. We had very -- we had a lot of qualified people. And then you end up having two different debate stages, some that can`t get in on the big stage and it is -- from an operative standpoint, my friends on the Democratic Party now know what true misery is because every week there`s a flavor of the day.
The flavor of the day was Marco Rubio for a while, Ted Cruz for a while, then then Donald Trump started nicknaming all of them. So for my friends on the Democratic side, good luck, pizza flavor of the week and then we`ll have another one. Beto O`Rourke will come back. He`s gotten a little bigger fundraising base, but they get to -- they get to enjoy the carnage we enjoyed of having a lot of talented qualified people separating a finite part of --
MELBER: Enjoy the carnage. It sounds like the Game of Thrones teaser. My thanks to Katon Dawson and Eleanor Clift. A programming note, many of these candidates have announced and then chosen to go on Rachel Maddow on the day of their announcement, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg continues that tradition.
He will be on with Rachel tonight in his first interview since announcing his 2020 bid which should be interesting. Up ahead more on this breaking news from the New York Times House Democrats issuing formal subpoenas to Deutsche Bank to get Trump`s financial documents and Russia and information. The reporter who broke that story just called in and joins me next.
MELBER: Breaking news tonight. The New York Times reporting Congressional Democrats have now subpoenaed Deutsche Bank. I am joined my phone with one of the reporters who broke this very story David Enrich of the New York Times. Maya Wiley, a former prosecutor in the Southern District of New York also with me.
David your story has all of the big items in it, financial records, Trump- related Russian dealings, and I see a reference to investigating money- laundering. What did you find?
DAVID ENRICH, FINANCIAL EDITOR, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, we`ve known for a while that two of the most important committees on Capitol Hill the House Financial Services Committee and the House Intelligence Committee are conducting a joint investigation into Deutsche Bank`s long, long very unusual relationship with Donald Trump.
And tonight for the first time we`ve learned that the subpoenas have actually started being issued which means that Deutsche Bank is very soon I think to be handing over reams of materials to some very experienced investigators and full of federal prosecutors who are working on this case in Capitol Hill. So this is --
MELBER: Let`s dig into that point you made that you say it`s a big development because of the nature of the information going back to Congress. Viewers are familiar with times where the word subpoena is used and then it sets off a long fight with for example people who follow orders for President Trump.
The point you seem to be digging into there and that the article makes is that Deutsche Bank appears to be working on an action plan so that they would actually fork these records over, is that right?
ENRICH: Yes. That`s right. Deutsche Bank has spent the past several weeks if not months cooperating with investigators from Capitol Hill helping them, in fact, frame the language on these subpoenas so that it`s narrowly crafted enough that they -- the bank believes that can easily comply with you. So I think that the materials will be handed over and fairly short order.
MELBER: Did your reporting suggest that Donald Trump would have any way to stop that?
ENRICH: You know, there -- that is something that committee staff have looked at and that it would say are little anxious about the fact. Deutsche Bank is going to need to notify the White House and the Trump Organization that is intended to hand over pretty detailed information about the President and his family company.
And Trump does have the right to potentially go to court to try and block the bank from handing that over. You know, I don`t think anyone knows right now whether that is actually going to happen and if it did happen, how successful it would be.
MELBER: It`s a very interesting scoop. Stay with me. Maya Wiley, I want to zero in on one legal part David is leading the charge for us and what he found that this is happening. On the way an investigation would work, I want to read to you from his reporting here along with Emily Flitter at the Times "The subpoenas seek records related to the business the banks did with suspected money launderers from Russia and other Eastern European countries." How does Congress approach something like that?
MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think directly which is what we`re sort of hearing in this reporting. If you know you have the potential for money laundering that impacts a president, remember we`re talking about a president who not only would not disclose his tax returns which was highly unusual, but has also not created a blind trust for all his business dealings.
So he has the ability to see into all of his financial transactions if he wants to. Congress is doing something that`s very much directly in its authority, it seems to me, to say that it wants to look at these transactions particularly and as we were talking about earlier where they`re issues related to counterintelligence and the possibility that you could have a President of the United States that might be in trouble.
MELBER: Right. David, before I let you go, a final question here. You name check in your reporting Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America. What`s that about?
ENRICH: Well a number of these banks have like Deutsche Bank has been involved over the years in moving money for very wealthy Russians whether it`s oligarchs or people connected the Kremlin and some of them acknowledged as much on Capitol Hill last week when they`re being grilled by Maxine Waters, And I think this is -- with the banks other than Deutsche Bank and it was a fairly standard investigative move to see what they have and let them come up with.
With Deutsche Bank it`s much more targeted. They know exactly what they`re after and they intend to get it.
MELBER: Fascinating. Congrats to you and Emily on a big story here, and thanks for jumping on the phone with THE BEAT.
ENRICH: My pleasure.
MELBER: And my thanks to Maya Wiley for playing with us on several topics tonight. I appreciate your expertise. Coming up, we have some more politics. This is pretty interesting. Speaker Pelosi weighing on OA -- AOC I should say. She says she`s wonderful but she also has a message to Democrats flirting with socialism drawing a line next.
MELBER: There`s a huge debate inside the Democratic Party that`s not just about 2020. It`s about the new members, it`s about what happened in the Midterms, and it`s about who is in charge. So before we go tonight, we wanted to show you something pretty interesting from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, addressing what has been the excitement and power of AOC`s new progressive wing in the party. Here`s what she said on 60 Minutes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESLEY STAHL, HOST, 60 MINUTES: You have these wings, AOC and her group on one side --
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I`d say, five people.
STAHL: No, the progressive group is more than five.
PELOSI: Well, the progressive -- I`m progressive, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Like five people. The distinction that Pelosi`s making is that if you talk about ideology, there are so many self-identified progressives in the party of various wings. But these so-called, like, five freshmen don`t define the whole party. She`s also talking about what should define the party economically.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: I do reject socialism as an economic system. If people have that view, that`s their view. That is not the view of the Democratic Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And that`s a difference between Progressive and Socialism. All of this comes after Pelosi said that AOC`s Green New Deal was basically a green dream, and last week talked about AOC`s social media outreach as saying, look, Twitter followers are not what ultimately matters, but, rather, the votes on the floor of the House.
Some of this isn`t about ideology. Some of it is about old school and new school, about outsider politics and insider politics, an interesting conversation within the party. And here is the message Speaker Pelosi says she wants to send her members.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: By and large, whatever orientation they came to Congress with, they know that we have to hold the center, that we have to be -- go down the mainstream.
STAHL: They know that?
PELOSI: They do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: They know that. Hold the center. That`s something that parties often talk about. Pelosi is a San Francisco Progressive. She`s speaking strategically about what to do. And in London today, she spoke again after there were questions about these new comments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: She`s a wonderful member of Congress. I think all of our colleagues will attest. But those are districts that are solidly Democratic, and if we`re going to be helping the one in five children in America who goes to sleep hungry at night who lives in poverty in our country, we have to win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: There you see it, the Speaker making it very clear she thinks AOC is wonderful. But she also wants to have this nuance conversation. It`s one we`ll be following and trying to cover with all the nuance it requires.
Thanks for watching The Beat. HARDBALL starts now.
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